In his excellent post yesterday on the presidential debates and how both candidates misrepresents facts, my colleague Dylan Pahman wrote:
Wishing to be charitable, I might characterize the politicians vying for our nation’s highest offices as “repeatedly mistaken,” but somewhere along the line someone on both sides is simply choosing to overlook the facts, unless we are to believe that both our president and his challenger have hired utterly incompetent researchers to support their campaigns—hardly a concession that instills me with much confidence in either of them.
Had Dylan not included this sentence I likely would have whole-heartedly agreed with his diagnosis (it doesn’t take much to convince me that both candidate are less than honest). But that line forced me to do some soul-searching since I have been a researcher for two different presidential candidates during two different primary seasons.
While it might be the case that I should be included among the “utterly incompetent researchers,” I made an honest effort when preparing debate prep materials to provide my candidates with accurate and wholly truthful information. The problem is that what constitutes “accurate and wholly truthful information” is far from obvious. Some facts are straightforward. When I included data such as “the economy grew by X% in quarter Y,” I had sufficient references to back up the claim. But other assertions, particularly about a candidate’s prior statements or political record, required relevant context in order to be established as truly “factual.”